The MLB Rule Changes are Positive for Baseball

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Felix Ronchetti

This year in spring training, the MLB announced a few new rule changes coming to the MLB to improve the pace of play and the action on the field. These changes were implemented in the minor leagues in the 2022 season, and the results were positive, allowing the rules to graduate to the majors. The most important rule for the pace of the game is the new pitch timer. This timer makes it so that the pitcher must start his motion in less than 20 seconds when the bases are empty, and under 15 when there are runners on base. The batter must also be ready in the batter’s box in under eight seconds. The MLB also increased the size of the bases from 15 inches to 18 inches, making the bases 4.5” closer to each other, aimed to increase the action in the game. Another rule introduced is the shift rule. This rule states that there must be a minimum of four infielders in the infield dirt, and there must be at least two fielders on each side of the second base. This rule is intended to improve the batting average on balls in play and allow infielders to showcase their athleticism. I believe that these rules are a good change for baseball, although many people think otherwise. 

These new rules help the pace of the games and increase the action in the games. In the minor league games and the spring training games, there was more action and more balls in play (fewer walks, strikeouts, and home runs), more athleticism on the field, and most importantly, a faster pace. These rules were tested in over 8,000 games at the minor league level, so the MLB is confident that this will change the playing and watching experience. On average, the minor league games with the new rules were 30 minutes shorter than the games without the new rules due to the pitch clock, attempted stolen base increased from 2.25 per game to 2.8 per game and the stolen base success rate went up 10% (68% to 78%) due to the closer bases. The shift rules led to a slight increase in the average batting average, from .247 to .249. An additional rule that led to more stolen bases and a shorter playing time is pitchers are only allowed to pick off twice per batter, and a third pickoff is a balk. The rules are only bringing positive changes to the MLB, but some people are still not convinced.

Even with all these positive outcomes of the new rules some old-fashioned people don’t like the rules, saying they are too radical and will change the playing experience too much. The main argument against the pitch clock was the Saturday, February 25th game where the Red Sox played the Braves. The game was tied in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, and a full count. The game ended when the Braves batter, Cal Conley, took too long to get ready, causing a pitch clock violation and an automatic strike. Although it is not great that the game ended this way, it is much like a shot clock in basketball, and if it runs out, it runs out. Also, according to the MLB, in the first month, there were 1.73 violations per game, but just a month later players adjusted, with only .53 calls per game. Another common complaint is with the pickoff rule. This rule states that a pitcher can only pick off twice per runner, so after the second pickoff, the runner can just steal. I agree this is a bad rule, but lots of pick-offs are a cause of gained time. 

I believe these rules are a positive change for baseball, speeding up the game and adding more athleticism and action. So far in spring training, these rules have had nothing but positive outcomes. Although this may lead to more radical changes in the future like robot umps (which I am not a fan of). All and all, this has been a nice change, and anyone who doesn’t like it is a cranky old man.